Beermen eye sixth win to fortify hold of the lead

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Back-to-back champions San Miguel Beer is keen on strengthening its hold of the top spot when it clashes against Blackwater today as the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup resumes at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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The Beermen, with a 5-1 win-loss record, will face the Elite under coach Leo Isaac in the 7 p.m. game after the 4:15 p.m. match between the GlobalPort Batang Pier and the Meralco Bolts.

“Blackwater is playing good lately and they are a very dangerous team,” San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria told The Manila Times in a phone interview on Thursday. “From point guard to big man, they run and they shoot from the perimeter. Their players are now also starting to mature that’s why they are playing well.”

Austria added that he wants his wards to start 2017 with a blast.

Junemar Fajardo of SMB shoots the ball past Joe Devance and JJ Helterbrand of Barangay Ginebra during a Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup game at the Araneta Coliseum. PHOTO BY BOB DUNGO JR.

Junemar Fajardo of SMB shoots the ball past Joe Devance and JJ Helterbrand of Barangay Ginebra during a Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup game at the Araneta Coliseum. PHOTO BY BOB DUNGO JR.

“We also have to start the year with a bang despite being on top of the team standings. We ended the year with back-to-back wins so why don’t we start the year with a victory? We have to sustain our effort,” he said.

San Miguel Beer will be playing without starting point guard Alex Cabagnot that is still nursing a broken nose. Cabagnot posted an average of 18.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals in the last six games.

Leading San Miguel Beer in its hunt for a sixth win will be three-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, Gabby Espinas, Arwind Santos, Chris Ross, Ryan Roose Garcia, Marcio Lassiter, Ronald Tubid, rookie Arnold Van Opstal and Jay-R Reyes.

“Most probably he cannot play against Blackwater because he’s still nursing a nasal fracture,” said Austria. “The good thing is we’re not relying only on one person. We play as a team.”

Blackwater, on the other hand, needs a morale-boosting win after losing to the Mahindra Floodbusters 93-97 on Christmas Day at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

“We will do our very best to get a win against San Miguel Beer,” said Isaac via text message.

The Elite, with a 4-3 win-loss record, will be relying on the talents of forward Arthur Dela Cruz, veteran shooter Ronjay Buenafe, Kyle Pascual, Nards Pinto, rookie Ael Banal, Raymond Aguilar, James Forrester and top overall pick Mac Belo.

GlobalPort, meanwhile, are aiming to bounce back from a defeat last December 28 against Phoenix Petroleum when it battles Meralco. The Batang Pier squandered a 26-point lead before collapsing in the endgame to suffer a 99-101 loss to the Fuel Masters.

The Batang Pier hold a 3-3 win-loss record.

Combo guard Terrence Romeo, Stanley Pringle, Nino Canaleta, Jay-R Quinahan, rookie Von Pessumal, Mike Cortez, Anthony Semerad and Billy Mamaril will lead GlobalPort’s charge.

The Bolts, with a 2-4 win-loss record, are hoping to halt a three-game losing skid with the help of Cliff Hodge, Jared Dillinger, rookie Ed Daquioag, Reynel Hugnatan, Chris Newsome, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Baser Amer.

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